If you haven’t flown with a young child before you might be understandably nervous about it. A lot of people like to talk about how flying with kids is a nightmare and it should be avoided. What do you need to know to make flying a pleasant experience?
1. Book an extra seat if possible
Children under 2 do not get their own seat unless you purchase it as an extra. Ringing up the customer service after purchasing the flight tickets is the easiest way to do this. An extra seat means you can eat your food without a child on your lap and it is easier for them to sleep – especially if you have a BedBox.
2. Don’t overpack
The last thing you need if you have a screaming baby is trying to find their dummy in the bottom of the bag whilst you have another 20 other items that you never ended up using. We have a practical blog post on what you might need to pack when flying long haul with a young toddler or baby.
3. Give yourself plenty of time (but not too much!)
The optimum time needed before a flight should allow you to calmly check in and go through security. 10-20 minutes post security before going to the gate is sufficient unless you are planning to eat a meal first. Toddlers and young kids are not the best Personal Shoppers in Duty Free so unless you know what you need, try to avoid it.
Often airports have a family security queue, you can ask at information if you cannot see it. This allows you to go through security in the fast lane.
4. Refuel often
Look after yourself as well as your kids. Make sure you continue to eat real meals whilst flying. The better you are feeling the easier it will be to haul luggage and kids from place to place on little sleep. A snack or meal prior to boarding and then a snack before leaving the airport once arriving is good to plan in regardless of the flight length.
5. Prepare for jet lag
The best way to minimise the effects of jet lag is to start preparing for it in advance. Move your clocks slowly towards your destinations before you leave. For example, let your kids stay up later or wake them up a bit sooner depending on the direction you are travelling. Forbes have a good article on beating jet lag. Newer planes like the Dreamliner are also designed to help minimise the effects of jet lag such as a more refined cabin pressure.
6. Board last
Often airlines will give families the opportunity to board the plane first. This can be nice if you have been standing in a queue for the last 20 minutes but if there are 300 passengers to board then you don’t want to be first. The best way to board a plane is to wait at the gate until the boarding queue is almost none, and then be one of the last to get on. You then have less time on the plane and so less chance of your child getting frustrated before take off. Only get out what you need for take off (a little drink for example) and then you can “unpack” once the seatbelt sign is off.
7. Behaviour as normal
Remember to make sure that children should behave as normal whilst flying. Whilst everyone’s parentings styles are different, your children should learn to respect the other passengers on the plane. Kicking seats and playing with the table tray or window shutter will not make for happy neighbours. Reward good behaviour in the same way you might at home. This does not apply to babies who do not understand how to behave regardless. A screaming baby is a screaming baby and there is nothing.
8. Give your kids responsibility
Start from when they can walk, let your children have a degree of responsibility over their items: from what to pack to pulling their BedBox around the airport. When they are deemed old enough, let them hold and hand over their passport at border control. In giving them this trust, you are teaching them how to travel instead of just taking them along.